Out in Albuquerque, N.M., a smart grid-solar-energy storage project backed by a consortium of Japanese giants is testing out a key element of the idea of net-zero energy communities — how to harness mass-market solar to balance the grid inside and outside the neighborhood’s borders.
At least, that’s where the idea could go for Mesa Del Sol, a mixed-use redevelopment project with plans for 18 million square feet of office, industrial, and retail space and about 37,000 homes. Forest City, the Cleveland-based property development giant, is in charge of the decades-long development plan, and last week unveiled the first piece of it — the 78,000 square foot Aperture Center — that’s been set up to run on its own solar power.
The event center’s 440-kilowatt peak load will be covered by a 50-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system, an 80-kilowatt fuel cell, a 240-kilowatt natural gas powered generator and a 160-kilowatt-hour battery storage system. The technology — and funding — comes via Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), which is investing about $10 million in the Mesa Del Sol project and another $12 million in another project in Santa Fe.
On the U.S. side, utility PNM, Sandia National Laboratories and the University of New Mexico are on the team. In its entirety, it’s still pretty small, on a par with the many different solar-storage-backup power systems being tested out around the country and the world.